The agency said it was prompted last Wednesday by an report that showed 12 dead walrus calves and 13 adults lying on a Chukchi Sea beach. Investigators initially believed that they have a murder case on their hands, but the two federal officers sent to investigate into the matter declined to speculate.
A spokesperson of the agency said that the investigators didn’t return and she declined to provide any clues on what the USFWS officers found at the scene. The agency said that details on the investigation would be available only through the U.S. Attorney’s office
“We’ve opened an investigation and can no longer answer questions about it,”
the spokesperson added.
The USFWS learned about the deaths from an individual working for the U.S. Air Force radar station in Alaska. Witnesses told reporters that they saw some of the walruses lacked their tusks while others were decapitated. They believe that trophy hunters or poachers may have been involved.
Walrus tusks are as valuable as elephant ivory for high-end jewelry manufacturers, while walrus heads are praised items by collectors. In Alaska, walruses can only be hunted by subsistence local hunters. Hunting down the animals for their tusks or as trophies is illegal under the state law.
Walruses in the Arctic already have a hard time surviving because of diminishing sea ice. According to a recent NOAA reprot, the sea ice in the Arctic hit this year its 4th lowest level on record and situation doesn’t seem to improve.
Walruses’ favorite hunting grounds are in the Bearing Sea, but walruses found in Chukchi Sea, which is located 230 miles away from the Bearing Strait, are mostly females with pups that rest on icy platforms before taking another dive for food.
But as sea ice gets narrower the animals are forced to move on shore or in northern areas, where they look for clams and sea snails. Biologists explained that walruses are able to make great efforts in their hunt for food but they need solid ice platforms to rest.
As sea ice loses ground northward the animals are trying to keep pace with it and migrate in northern areas. But not all walruses are willing to do that and many of them would rather rest on shores in massive herds. One such massive herd was spotted last September nearby Cape Lisburne where the 25 dead walruses were found.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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